It has been said that the journey is more important than the destination. Palo Alto senior Lucas Matison would have to agree. Although, reaching this point in the season is pretty enjoyable, as well.
Matison heads into cross-country's Central Coast Section Championship on Saturday at Toro Park in Salinas with the fastest time among all Division I section runners. His 15:31.2 puts him among contenders for individual honors and a berth in the CIF State Meet on Nov. 29 in Fresno.
That's quite a destination, considering the journey Matison has taken this year.
In late February, Matison was riding his bike home from school on Park Avenue. It was getting dark. A car evidently did not see the blond-haired Matison and clipped his bike's rear wheel, spinning him around and throwing him to the ground.
Matison suffered a medial collateral ligament injury to his knee and wound up in Stanford Hospital that night. He spent the next three weeks using a wheelchair and crutches to get around. He missed Palo Alto's entire track and field season and wondered if he'd ever run again.
"I was in a lot of pain the first week," Matison confirmed. "I didn't know what was going to happen to my running career. But, once I started walking, I knew I could run again."
Fortunately for Matison, an MRI revealed that his injury was a strain instead of a tear. While he did miss Paly's track and field season, he was able to train normally during the summer.
"I was pretty upset at first, because I wanted to have a good track season," Matison said. "So, this (cross country) season I wanted to redeem myself."
Matison regained his fitness to the point of being invited to join the U.S. Mountain Ultra Trail National Team for the World Mountain Running Championships this past September in Casette di Massa, Italy.
There, he finished 18th out of 70 in his age group over the rugged 8.4-kilometer course and proved to himself that he was fit for Paly's cross-country season.
"It (the race in Italy) made the cross-country races seem like not that big of deal," Matison said of the big confidence boost.
He has finished second in two races and third in one this season, missing two meets due to illness before bouncing back to defend his SCVAL El Camino Division title last week at Crystal Springs in Belmont.
His time of 15:31.2 helped the Vikings win the team title for the first time in more than six years and put them in contention for a state meet berth this weekend. Based on times at Crystal Springs this season, the Paly boys rank fourth among all Division I teams trailing Bellarmine, Homestead and Carlmont.
Ironically, Matison has a chance to knock Carlmont out of a state meet berth after helping the Scots win one in 2012 when he attended the school before moving to Palo Alto for 2013.
Perhaps standing better chances of advancing as a team will be the Priory boys and girls, Gunn girls and Sacred Heart Prep boys. All are ranked (based on time) to finish among the top three.
Meanwhile. Matison is one of six local runners leading their respective divisions heading into the CCS finals.
Sacred Heart Prep senior Daniel Hill tops Division IV at 15:42.2 and Priory senior Ross Corey leads Division V with a 16:29.8. For the girls, Gunn junior Gillian Meeks tops Division I (17:32.1), Menlo senior Lizzie Lacy leads Division IV with a 17:00.8 and Pinewood senior Nicole Colonna tops Division V at 18:55.1.
Lacy not only leads her division, but has the fastest overall girls time this season after winning the West Bay Athletic League race last Friday at Crystal Springs.
Her 17:00.8 was not only a school and league record, but it moved her to the No. 8 performer all-time on the course with the 10-fastest time ever.